Atlanta couple Josh and Jenna Buehler knew each other from their school days at Georgia Tech. But it wasn’t until a few years later, in 2011, that they would actually start dating. Soon enough, they would fall in love. Then, in 2014, they became husband and wife.
The couple were having a fantastic time as newlyweds, enjoying traveling and staying active. Speaking to Texas news channel KAGS, Jenna described this period of time as “a blast… we were very much in love.”
They headed off to Taiwan in March 2015 for their honeymoon, but it was during this trip that it all went wrong. In fact, Josh had been behaving quite strangely for a while beforehand.
Josh had been worrying Jenna a little since their marriage. He became forgetful, anxious and confused. For example, one day he thought he had lost his car keys, forcing him to take public transport home. Later, however, Jenna would find his keys in his pocket.
And on their honeymoon, things only worsened. Jenna noticed that Josh wasn’t walking straight, so she filmed him in order to convince him to see a doctor. She was scared he might be showing signs of multiple sclerosis, a condition that Josh’s mother was struggling with.
But the reality was even worse than she feared. In fact, Josh had a fast-growing, two-inch tumor in his brain. The couple were quickly on a plane back home, where doctors gave the couple a more detailed diagnosis.
He had an aggressive form of cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Tragically, the average prognosis was just 15 months. After taking in the awful news, the Buehlers decided to bank some of Josh’s sperm so that they could still start a family during his treatment.
To their delight, Jenna got pregnant through IVF. In fact, she was expecting twins. However, their joy wasn’t to last. They discovered Jenna had lost one of the babies at nine weeks.
The couple received another huge blow before the surviving baby was born. Josh’s cancer had spread into his brain membranes and spinal fluid, a condition known as leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.
With no treatment, sufferers typically only survive for around a month to a month and a half. With treatment, that prognosis extends to just three or four months.
In order to document this extraordinary period, the Buehlers decided to hire a photographer, Jennifer Keenan Giliberto. In fact, Giliberto was a cancer survivor herself and had been looking for an opportunity to document someone else’s cancer journey.
Giliberto stuck with the couple through many of the most intimate moments of Josh’s illness, also recording the birth of the Buehlers’ daughter in September 2016. An extra bed was moved into Jenna’s delivery room so that Josh could be present.
Josh was too ill and was unconscious for most of the time. But he met baby Reilly soon after the birth and with some help was able to hold her. “The three of us just laid in bed together for a little bit,” Jenna said.
By this point, Josh was very weak. Giliberto’s photographs show him looking very thin and frail as he got to know his tiny daughter. “They bonded enough that he held her, kissed her,” Jenna said. “I would ask him, ‘Do you want your baby?’ and almost every time, he said yes.”
Josh suffered from seizures as a consequence of his condition. This caused his right arm to shake, but the movement would in fact soothe Reilly to sleep as the two lay together at home.
However, Josh’s time with his precious daughter was coming to an end. The Buehlers only had a few weeks of time left as a family before Josh’s cancer would take him away from them.
On November 6, 2016, 41-year-old Josh passed away, just seven weeks after his daughter was born. “He just stopped,” Jenna told KAGS. “There were no tears, no moan; he was asleep and then he just stopped. He was holding his daughter.”
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to support Jenna and Reilly with the medical expenses incurred during Josh’s battle. So far, it has raised more than $27,000.
The Buellers’ story is truly heartbreaking. However, Jenna’s attitude now that Josh has gone is inspirational. She has thrown herself into raising awareness of cancer. “Josh can’t be with us anymore, but I hope his life proves to be impactful,” she said.
Indeed, she hopes that one day cancer can be eradicated altogether. “I don’t know who’s going to find the answer, but there are a lot of great minds on this planet,” she said. “I don’t care who solves the problem, I just want the problem solved.”